Thread: Who was better?
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Old 06-06-2007, 09:24 AM   #21
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Default Re: Who was better?

There's a nice article about Elvis in this month's issue of American History; the author makes a cogent point about Elvis being an interpretive artist and The Beatles being creative artists. Regardless of what the label on the record said, Elvis didn't write his songs. A songwriter had to add Presley's name to the credits in order to get him to sing it. (Which in those days was a good deal both ways. Many of Presley's hits were written by Otis Blackwell ["All Shook Up", "Don't Be Cruel", "Return to Sender"] or Leiber & Stoller ["Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock", "Don't"] ).

Probably all of us here are too young to know what it was really like when Elvis or The Beatles hit. I know nothing of Elvis fever, I was 2 in 1956 when his first RCA album was recorded. From all accounts it was like nothing before. Sinatra had the same effect on teenagers (it was for him that the word "teenbopper" came into the vernacular), but Elvis was so... SEXUAL. Check out this YouTube clip of "Heartbreak Hotel"; this was TAME for Elvis. The difference between the mature appeal of traditional stars and Elvis' blatant and raw lust is never more apparent than it would be with the first two (hidden) pelvic thrusts on his guitar. And you'll never find a more apt depiction of what was happening, the establishment sould try all they wanted to keep the genie bottled up... but it was already out and not going back into the bottle.

Heartbreak Hotel

And he sang race music! It was the revolution in pop culture that America was primed for. This clip is more like what was REALLY happening. Watch the girl in the audience shots:

Hound Dog

As an interesting aside, the author of the aforementioned article makes another often overlooked point: while Elvis was taking black music and making it white, Chuck Berry was taking white music and making it black; his narrative songs took a country music tradition and set it to black rhythms. Those two men forged the synthesis of pop culture we have today. And he also makes the point that none of it would have happened in our segregated society without radio, which could not be shut out. White kids could listen to "race" radio, and black kids could listen to "hillbilly" radio.

I was only 10 in 1964; Beatlemania was something I watched but didn't understand or participate in like my older sisters. there hasn't been any sort of parallel that I can think of in the last 40 years; maybe Harry Potter, but that isn't anywhere near as intense as Beatlemania was. Locally, maybe Steeler Fever in the '70s; or, think about our last Super Bowl run, and globalize that feeling. And stretch it out for 6 or 7 years, from late '63 through '69 or '70.
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